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my pace
Human Resources

Motivational Stories

Be Well! And Tell!!

Employees: Share Your Success Stories! Inspire Others to Pace Themselves to Wellness!!

Last updated: February 2020

I had so much fun looking for the scavenger hunt objects! I usually take time to walk the campus, but this time it was with a specific purpose. While looking for the objects, I encountered and came upon things that I had glanced over and didn’t pay much attention to. But this time I was aware of my surroundings more than the last.

I started the scavenger hunt with the easy objects then I headed over to the Environmental Center area looking for the Cheever Nature Trail sign. That was pretty easy. I thought the moss covered stone bench must be on the nature trail somewhere. Wrong! At the end of the trail I see this huge pond that I didn’t realize was there. I saw a student volunteering in the garden and decided to introduce myself.

Then on to look for the last two objects. That darn moss covered stone bench and the iron dragon. As I’m heading up the hill to the OSA building I hear rustling in the brush. I look and there’s this HUGE deer prancing along in the same direction as I! What a beautiful sight!  I did find the iron dragon sitting high atop the entrance of the OSA building.

I reach the top of the hill where the Goldstein Acadmeic building is. I think I see what is a stone bench sitting on top of this small hill and head in that direction. THERE IT IS!! Mission accomplished!!!

As I head back to my office, I ponder the benefits of such a walk. Walking not only burns calories, but it strengthens the heart, boosts your energy, tones your legs, and improves your mood. Think about it! Don’t you feel GREAT after a good walk? And what about all the creative juices that were flowing while you were walking? You can answer questions that were on your mind, solve that mystery that had you off kilter, and enjoy your surroundings all the while exercising. I will walk as long as I am able…it’s one of the free gyms of the world!

Vanessa Hall
Special Events Coordinator, Westchester
University Special Events

Anyone who knows me knows that my mission in life is to “be the change I want to see in the world.” But in order to do that effectively, I had to be the change I wanted (needed!) to see in myself! Understanding that one’s emotional, physical and spiritual health are all interconnected, I made some major changes over the past few years in each of those areas and I’ve never been happier or healthier! First, I went vegan for environmental, animal and health reasons. Contrary to popular belief, it’s NOT a limited diet; in fact, it has opened up a whole new delicious culinary world and inspired me to take up cooking, which I now LOVE! For my physical health, I hike 7-8 miles a day with my beloved rescue dogs, which gives me oodles of energy in the morning and helps me decompress at the end of the day! (During my morning walks, I simply enjoy being in nature…listening to the sounds and breathing in the fresh air, and in the evening I listen to my audiobooks!) Finally, thanks to Sophie Kaufman who introduced me to it, I now routinely practice mindfulness, which enables me to live in, and be grateful for, the “present moment.” My advice for anyone who asks? Do what makes YOU feel healthy and happy!! There are countless activities and lifestyles people can engage in that suit their particular needs and passions!

Dr. Susan L. Maxam
Assistant VP, UG Education
Division of Student Success

I am getting close to reaching my exercise and weight loss goals for 2019. After my class last fall semester at Wilcox Hall, I was exhausted walking uphill back to my office in the Goldstein Academic Center. I also noticed that I felt drained after my evening classes. Based on a standard body mass index calculator, I was overweight. So I set the goal to complete a Four Seasons Challenge Series in my local town and to lose 10 pounds in 2019. The series consists of four charity events: a 4-mile run on New Year's Day, a 5-K run on Mother's Day, a 5-mile run in June, and a 5-K run on Halloween. I started doing regular power walking exercises last fall and completed the first three events in 2019. However, I found out that even though walking is an excellent exercise, walking alone is not enough for me to lose weight. I visited my mother in Hong Kong this January, and it was funny that she gently chided me on having a big belly when she saw me! But she was right. I needed a combination of both diet and exercise, so I have adopted a flexitarian diet in June. I eat mostly plant-based foods and I limit my meat, carb, and added sugar intake as much as possible. For example, instead of eating just white rice, I eat a mixture of white rice, cauliflower rice, and wild rice. I have lost seven pounds in the past three months. I now feel that I have more energy, and I am confident that I can reach my health goals this year.

Kam C. Chan, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Accounting
Lubin School of Business

"Moving at Your Own Pace"

A few years ago, I was at a physically and mentally stressful crossroads –while juggling the massive responsibilities of a single parent. Energy was running low, stakes were unbelievably high, and I was surrounded by “emotional vampires”. Inspired by the words of Prof. Thomas O'Sullivan and Fr. John Vlahos, "Be Present. Be Attentive." and Steve Burns’ "Don't give up, just go on!" (Blues Clues), I recommend the following:

  • Understand your own limitations: Multitaskers struggling with complex work-life responsibilities tend to miss red flags indicating that major stress is about to hit.
  • Know your rights and your network: Know who you can count on for sound advisement; don't indulge discrediting "gaslighting" behavior.
  • Stay positive: Refocus momentarily by taking a deep breath and thinking of something that makes you smile/laugh.
  • Trust in others: Single parents tend to be very “DIY,” but it’s important to learn how to let go and delegate tasks or ask for assistance.
  • Get involved: You (and your family) can join fun activities to help your community peers or those in need.
  • You’re not “too busy” for personal care! As Vidal Sassoon would say, "If you don't look good, we don't look good."
  • Move on: If you're in a toxic work/home environment, it’s important to move to a positive, supportive atmosphere where you can flourish.
  • Do a monthly personal "reboot": Set down your usual work-life routine and tribulations and schedule an activity. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, but it should be positive, constructive and affirming – a fitness program, brunch or night out with friends, a new book, etc.

These have worked very well for me. I’m much stronger and happier today as a result.

Chris Salboudis
Asst. Professor
English Department
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

Microorganisms are vitally important to our health. Without “good” bacteria on and in our bodies, we would have difficulty fighting infections and digesting our food. It has also recently come to my attention that a healthy microbiota might be necessary for maintaining good moods. Some microorganisms in our digestive systems secrete neurotransmitters1,2 which are chemicals that allow signals to be sent through our nervous systems and even influence our brains. Along these lines of research, evidence has suggested that our gut microbiome may play a role in anxiety and depression. I therefore made a pact to eat foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome to promote both physical and mental health. Plant-based foods are difficult for the human body to digest, and thus microbes have evolved symbiotic relationships with humans. A plant-based, fiber-rich diet promotes the proliferation of a healthy gut microbiota that breaks down these foods in our digestive tracts3. Although I have been a vegetarian for nearly 30 years, I now make an effort to opt for leafy green vegetables during at least one meal per day. I choose whole grain breads and brown rice over refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, and white rice. A healthy protein-rich choice is quinoa, which contains all of the essential amino acids (‘essential’ referring to our bodies’ inabilities to synthesize them from other molecules). When I stick to these dietary choices, I have more energy, a more positive attitude, and I feel hungry less often. I avoid taking probiotic supplements though – some research suggests that they actually hinder the gut microbiome’s ability to bounce back to a healthy state after taking antibiotics4.

1Jameson KG, Hsiao EY (2018) Linking the gut microbiota to a brain neurotransmitter. Trends in Neurosciences 41(7):413-414.
2Strandwitz P (2018) Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain Research 1693:128-133.
3O’Keefe SJD (2019) Plant-based foods and the microbiome in the preservation of health and prevention of disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 110(2):265-266.
4Suez J et al. (2019) Post-antibiotic gut mucosal microbiome reconstitution is impaired by probiotics and improved by autologous FMT. Cell 174(6):1406-1423.

Erika Crispo, PhD
Associate Professor
Coordinator, Ecology minor
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

As a woman “of a certain age,” I struggle to stay fit. When I was a teenager, I played on tennis teams and was an avid skier, so I didn’t have to think much about how to keep in shape. In my twenties, I started running and kept it up until my knees started bothering me at around age thirty. So I slowed down to a walk, feeling prematurely old but determined to do what I could to maintain both physical and mental wellness. In my thirties, I started having lower back problems, which were exacerbated by my twin pregnancy and then made even worse by my decision to wheel my young daughters in their double stroller up and down the hills of Riverdale in order, ironically, to keep fit. As a result, I have been living with fairly chronic back pain for many years, which limits me in many ways, making it challenging to “pace myself to wellness.” Nonetheless, I soldier on, refusing to give up on exercise. I stretch my back every morning, aim for 5000-6000 steps each day, and make time in my busy schedule to take a 30-40 minute walk on a flat surface several times per week. So if you see someone walking around (and around) the nice flat quad between Kessel and the residence halls this fall, you’ll know it’s me trying to pace myself to wellness. Feel free to wave hello or even join me. I’d welcome the company!

Dr. Bette H. Kirschstein
Associate Dean, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences
Associate Professor of English
Editor, Transactions